The New England Revolution have declined to renew Steve Nicol's contract. The 49-year-old has coached the MLS team since 2002. (AP)

The New England Revolution have declined to renew Steve Nicol's contract. Nicol, shown here in 2009, has been the head coach of the MLS team since 2002. (AP)

It’s the same in soccer as in other games. When the team doesn’t win, the head coach gets canned. For a variety of reasons, the New England Revolution didn’t win much this year, and this week Steve Nicol was fired.

When Nicol was first offered the head coach’s position with the Revolution a decade ago, he turned it down. He said he didn’t have the requisite experience.

After serving as an assistant coach, he took over the team in 2002 and led New England to the MLS championship game. He did that again twice over the next several seasons. He earned the respect of all his players, even the ones who didn’t know Nicol had been a star player with Liverpool and Scotland’s national team.

I first met Steve Nicol shortly after he arrived in this country to play for and coach the Boston Bulldogs. He struck me then as a good leader with a fine, dry wit. Though he had played for and against the most celebrated and wealthy clubs in the world, he was untroubled by the state of the Bulldogs practice field, which was small, uneven, and cluttered with debris. He told me he’d had a lot to learn as a player when he’d begun at the bottom. He assumed it would be the same now that he’d taken up coaching.

A big part of the fun of hosting Only A Game is meeting good people. My list of such people is long and varied. Steve Nicol sits somewhere close to the top of it, and I wish him well with whatever soccer organization is fortunate enough to land him next.